'Samson' director lifts Camera d'Or

Aboriginal story wins prize for first-timer Thornton

SYDNEY -- The spotlight continues to shine on Aboriginal love story "Samson
& Delilah," with congratulations pouring in for indigenous writer-director, Warwick Thornton, who picked up the Camera d'Or for his debut feature at the Festival de Cannes on Sunday.

Receiving the award from actress Isabelle Adjani in Cannes, Thornton, who grew up in central Australia near the troubled communities where the film is set, said: "Thank you for believing in our first born baby. I don't know what to say. Viva Cannes, viva le cinema."

Leading the congratulations, Screen Australia CEO Ruth Harley said: "There's no doubt the film is connecting with audiences everywhere. It's a unique love story ... told with unsentimental compassion by a director/cinematographer with an extraordinary cinematic eye. The Camera d'Or is a well-deserved testament to the talent and skill of Warwick and his team."

"Samson & Delilah" is the first feature to be funded by Screen Australia's indigenous film branch.

While continuing to wrack up critical acclaim, more crucially for the Australian independent sector, "Samson & Delilah" has become something of a boxoffice success.

Local distributor Footprint Films' carefully considered release strategy and the word of mouth it's developing has seen the film take over AUS$850,000, on just 16 screens nationally since its commercial release on May 7, making it the second-highest ranking local film at the Australian box office in the year to date behind Adam Eliot's "Mary & Max."

Footprint will widen the film's release to about 30 screens in the next few weeks, while the Australian Broadcasting Corp., which also part financed the film, confirmed Monday it will screen the film on its ABC1 channel later this year.

ABC managing director Mark Scott said he was "delighted 'Samson & Delilah' is a winner at Cannes."